In yesterday’s post, I shared some of my favourite fiction novels of 2020, but I couldn’t let the year end without talking about a few of the wonderful nonfiction titles that I read this year. I didn’t read as much nonfiction this year as I would have liked, but I still managed to find a few new favourites!
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Ironically, I read Quiet in February before the lockdown, and I had no idea how much I would put what I had learned in this book into practice this year. One of my best friends is very much an extrovert, and I know not being able to socialize in a traditional way this year has been extremely difficult for her. Of course, it has been tough for me (and everyone!), but in a different way. I think that Quiet has helped me to understand myself in a new way and to appreciate my introversion. I think it is a must read for anyone who has seen their introversion as something negative!
A River of Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa
It was actually my brother, who is not a huge reader, who inspired me to pick up A River in Darkness. My brother is fascinated by North Korea, and this one as well as Escape from Camp 14 (which is on my TBR for 2021!) are the two that he is always recommending. I knew very little about North Korea going into this book, and it was eyeopening. Ishikawa’s journey was so harrowing and the choices that he is forced to make are ones no one should have to contemplate. The name “Masaji Ishikawa” is an alias, and little is known about the author’s whereabouts today. I think about him and his family often.
The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s by Andy Greene
The Office is my favourite TV show- I watch it every night before I go to bed. So, it is no surprise that I absolutely loved this book! It was so interesting to get some behind the scenes information on how the show was made and what the actors, writers, producers, etc., all thought about it. I find myself telling people little tidbits that I learned, but no one seems to care! I now have an even greater appreciation for The Office, which I didn’t think was possible.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton is one of my favourites memoirs, and Bryan Stevenson was responsible for Hinton’s release from death row in 2015. I have been meaning to read Just Mercy for two years now, and I am so glad that I finally did. I do not follow many people’s careers, but Stevenson is someone who I admired and Google often. I am always reading articles about him! His memoir is a must read, and I also enjoyed the movie adaptation.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya
I am always talking about how much I appreciate a raw and honest memoir, and I don’t think anyone is more vulnerable or truthful in her writing than Clemantine Wamariya is in The Girl Who Smiled Beads. Her anger, frustration, sadness, and strength leaps from the page- she holds nothing back. The book is under 300 pages, so I read it quickly, but it is one that I want to revisit in the future because I think I will take even more away from it upon a reread and some annotating.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
I have not read many YA memoirs, and that is such a shame! All Boys Aren’t Blue should be on the shelves in every classroom. I strongly believe that a book like this could be life changing for some readers. All Boys Aren’t Blue is a series of essay, each one being more powerful than the next. There are moments that are difficult to read, and others that are touching and sweet. What stands out in my mind are the letters that Johnson wrote to different people in their life- so moving!
Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
If you are going to read Catch and Kill, make sure that you have some time set aside to fall down a YouTube rabbit hole. You are going to want to watch all of Ronan Farrow’s interviews after this! Catch and Kill talks about the start of the #metoo movement and shines a light on how many people covered for Harvey Weinstein. Farrow faced so many roadblocks when trying to expose Weinstein, and it was so frustrating and upsetting to read. I will never look at NBC the same way! She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, which also covers this topic, is high on my TBR.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
I read Machado’s short story collection, Her Bodies and Other Parties, so I already knew that I adored her writing, but In The Dream House took it to another level. She was very experimental in how she wrote her memoir, and it worked. Domestic abuse within a queer relationship is not something that is often discussed, so I was blown away by Machado’s vulnerability in sharing her story.
Do we share any nonfiction favourites? What is the best nonfiction book you read in 2020?
39 thoughts on “Favourite Nonfiction of 2020”
These all sound so interesting! I need to make more of an effort to read non-fiction in 2021. I started reading Quiet in 2018 but gave up on it, I think because I’m still at university and I read to escape my uni work but reading non-fiction is too reminiscent of said uni work 😅 Hopefully after I graduate in the summer I’ll be able to enjoy non-fiction a bit more and give Quiet another go
Oh I totally get that. I don’t think I read any nonfiction when I was in university. Curious to see what you think of Quiet when you’re in the right headspace for it!
The only non-fiction I can manage at uni are memoirs. Very excited to finally expand in the summer 😁
I think my favorite nonfiction book of the year is Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller. The stories and writing are so compelling, I could hardly put it down.
I read that too and really enjoyed it! I loved how it was part history and part memoir.
Great list! I have heard a lot of praise for In The Dream House & have that on my 2021 TBR. A River In Darkness sounds really interesting, reminds me of In Order To Live by Yeonmi Park which is one of the most moving and harrowing memoirs I’ve read.
I will have to buy In Order to Live to my brother. Thanks for that recommendation!
I haven’t read any nonfiction this year but I’m hoping to change that next year
I think a lot of people stayed away from nonfiction in 2020,which I totally understand!
So agree on River of Darkness and The Girl who Smiled Beads. Such inspirational refugee stories.
Agreed. Both are memoirs that I continue to think about and share with others.
I found Quiet to be a real revelation; as an introvert I’d often wished I had a different personality but it really helped me embrace the qualities that I have as a more reserved person. I think my favourite non-fiction book I’ve read this year would be Chernobyl – not an easy read but I came away feeling that it had given a voice to some of the people who were silenced at the time for trying to get the truth out to the world.
I had the exact same experience with Quiet. It was lifechanging in that way.
I started Chernobyl this year on audio, but think I need to read the physical copy. I have a feeling it is one that will stay with me. Happy to know you took so much away from it.
I didn’t know there was an audio version! I have to say, I think I might have found it a bit difficult to keep track of everything that was going on if I hadn’t had the actual book in front of me….
I think that was my problem. It was too much information and a lot of people to keep track of, so it wasn’t working for me on audio!
All of these sound fascinating, thanks for sharing. Can recommend She Said, interesting to see how much work went into the investigation and the importance of good journalism
It is definitely high priority for 2021!
This is such a diverse list of books!! I totally agree with your points. Fabulous list!
Quiet is high on my TBR! I’m an introvert and isolation has taken its toll on me…I can imagine how difficult this year has been for extroverts!
…and the best nonfiction I read this year was The Choice and The Only Plane in the Sky
Ah The Only Plane in the Sky is in my top three nonfiction books ever. The audiobook is haunting.
I don’t think I could do the audio!
Same! It was probably so difficult for extroverts. I know my friend tells me that all the time.
I think In The DreamHouse is going to be one of the non fiction books that I’m going to take with me into 2021!
That’s such a great idea!
You talked about Just Mercy earlier this year and that’s what inspired me to read it this year! It was such a good and important book!
I’m so glad I inspired you to pick it up! Have you watched the movie?
Not yet, but it is on my list of movies to watch!
Thank you for this! I always want to read more non-fiction and I’m adding some of these to my TBR. Especially, the Office one! 🙂
Ah The Office book is so great!!
I bet so!! Going on the amazon wishlist!!
Thank you for this list! I added Quiet: The Power of Introverts to my TBR as it sounds like a good read. I loved All Boys Aren’t Blue and Stamped by Jason Reynolds! I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction so this is a good starting place, thanks!
I think you will take a lot away from Quiet!
Stamped is one I want to get to in 2021.
I think so too!!
And I hope you enjoy Stamped!
I’m hoping to read more in the new year!!
Quiet is one of my favourite non-fiction books too! It had about the same effect on me too. It taught me to stop trying to be an extrovert just to fit in and to embrace my introversion.
wow all of these seem so interesting
Very curious about A River in Darkness!
It’s harrowing for sure but worth the read!